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9 Apr
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A Step-By-Step Guide to Upgrade Terraform Version

Upgrade Terraform version seamlessly with this detailed guide that provides clear instructions and helpful tips. Take advantage of the latest.

Jack Dwyer

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Terraform and its Versions at a Glance

different versions of code-Upgrade Terraform Version

What is Terraform? Terraform is a powerful open-source Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tool developed by HashiCorp. It is utilized to provision and manage cloud and on-premises resources efficiently. Terraform follows a well-defined semantic versioning system (MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH) for its releases. 

Each version delivers new features, enhancements, and bug fixes. Major version increments signify incompatible API changes, while minor increments indicate backward-compatible feature additions, and patch increments denote backward-compatible bug fixes.

Importance of Staying Up-to-Date with Terraform Versions

Remaining current with Terraform versions is crucial for several reasons. Newer versions often include critical security patches, performance improvements, and bug fixes that bolster the overall stability and functionality of Terraform. 

Upgrading to the most recent version guarantees access to the latest features and capabilities, allowing users to leverage the most recent advancements in Terraform's functionality. This also helps maintain compatibility with provider versions, which are frequently updated to back new resource types and APIs.

Understanding the Difference Between Provider and Terraform Versions

It is essential to recognize that Terraform and the providers it interacts with are separate components. Providers are plugins that empower Terraform to manage resources on specific platforms like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, etc. Each provider maintains its own versioning system, which may or may not align with the Terraform version. Ensuring compatibility between the Terraform and provider versions in use is vital, as incompatibilities can result in errors or unexpected behavior.

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Why Upgrade Terraform Version?

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Benefits of Upgrading Terraform Version

Access to New Features and Improvements

Each new Terraform version introduces new features, enhancements, and capabilities that can simplify infrastructure management, improve efficiency, and provide more advanced functionality. These new features can streamline workflows, increase productivity, and enable users to manage cloud resources more effectively

Enhanced Security and Bug Fixes

Newer versions often include critical security patches and bug fixes that address vulnerabilities or issues present in previous versions, ensuring a more secure and stable Terraform experience. By upgrading to the latest version, users can mitigate potential security risks and prevent exploitation of known vulnerabilities.

Compatibility with Updated Provider Versions

 As cloud providers release new services and APIs, their respective Terraform providers are updated to support these changes. Upgrading Terraform ensures compatibility with the latest provider versions, enabling users to take advantage of new resource types and features. This compatibility allows users to leverage the full capabilities of cloud services and maximize their infrastructure's efficiency.

Alignment with Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Best Practices

The Terraform development team continuously works on improving Terraform's alignment with IaC best practices, such as better state management, more robust dependency handling, and improved error handling. Upgrading Terraform ensures that users can adopt the latest best practices and optimize their infrastructure provisioning and management workflows.

Risks of Not Upgrading Terraform Version

Potential Security Vulnerabilities

Older versions of Terraform may contain known security vulnerabilities that could be exploited, putting your infrastructure at risk. Failing to upgrade Terraform leaves your infrastructure exposed to potential threats and security breaches that could compromise sensitive data or disrupt services.

Missing Out on Performance Optimizations

Newer Terraform versions often include performance optimizations and improvements that can significantly reduce the time and resources required for infrastructure provisioning and management. By not upgrading, users may miss out on these optimizations, resulting in slower provisioning times, increased costs, and reduced operational efficiency.

Compatibility Issues with Provider Versions

Failing to upgrade Terraform can lead to compatibility issues with updated provider versions, preventing you from utilizing new features or causing errors when managing resources. Incompatible provider versions can result in deployment failures, configuration errors, or resource inconsistencies, hindering your ability to effectively manage your cloud resources.

Outdated Syntax and Capabilities

Older versions of Terraform may not support the latest syntax or capabilities introduced in newer versions, limiting your ability to take advantage of the latest advancements in Terraform's functionality. By not upgrading, you may miss out on productivity enhancements, new features, and improved workflows that could streamline your infrastructure management processes.

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Checking the Current Terraform Version

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The process of checking the current Terraform version can be easily accomplished using the CLI. By entering the command `Terraform version`, you can obtain essential information about the current version of Terraform, the platform it's installed on, installed providers, and the results of upgrade and security checks. Optionally, you can utilize the `-json` flag alongside `Terraform version` to format the version information as a JSON object, excluding upgrade or security details.

Understanding the Output

The output of the `Terraform version` command generally includes the following details

The Terraform version

This specifies the version of the Terraform binary itself (e.g., 0.14.9).

Provider versions

A list of the installed providers and their respective versions.

Additional information

Depending on the version and environment, more details might be available, such as the build information or the installation path.

Interpreting the Version Format

Terraform adheres to semantic versioning, which employs a MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH format (e.g., 0.14.9)

MAJOR version

Incremented for significant changes that could break compatibility

MINOR version

Increased for new features or non-breaking changes

PATCH version

Raised for bug fixes or minor updates.

Examples of Version Numbers and Their Meanings


This denotes a PATCH release, indicating bug fixes or minor updates within the 0.14 MINOR version


This is a new MINOR release, introducing new features or changes while maintaining backward compatibility


Signifying a new MAJOR release, this version might include breaking changes or substantial architectural alterations.

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Understanding Terraform Version Constraints

inter dependability on Upgrade Terraform Version

When working with Terraform configurations, it is possible to specify an exact version of a provider to use by providing the version number in the required_providers block. This can be achieved by using the syntax required_providers { aws = { source = "hashicorp/aws", version = "3.38.0" }. 

By specifying an exact version, your configuration will consistently use that specific provider version. This ensures stability and predictability within your infrastructure.It's important to note that by doing this, you will not automatically benefit from new features, bug fixes, or security updates in newer provider versions unless you manually update the version constraint.

Valid Version Constraints

Terraform uses a specific syntax for version constraints, which is similar to other dependency management systems like Bundler and NPM. A version constraint is a string literal containing one or more conditions separated by commas. Each condition consists of an operator and a version number. Version numbers can be a series of numbers separated by periods, optionally with a suffix to indicate a beta release. 

The following operators are valid when configuring version constraints in Terraform:
- = (or no operator)
- !=
- >
- >=
- <
- <=
- ~>

These operators allow you to control whether Terraform automatically upgrades to newer versions of a provider when they become available. For example, using ~> 3.38 would allow upgrades to newer 3.x versions but not versions 4.0.0 or later.

Best Practices for Version Constraints

There are specific best practices associated with version constraints in Terraform.

1. Module Versions

When depending on third-party modules, requiring specific versions ensures that updates only occur when convenient for you.
For modules maintained within your organization, specifying version ranges may be appropriate if semantic versioning is used consistently or if there is a well-defined release process that avoids unwanted updates.

2. Terraform Core and Provider Versions

Reusable modules should constrain only their minimum allowed versions of Terraform and providers to avoid known incompatibilities while allowing flexibility for users to upgrade to newer versions of Terraform.
Root modules should use a ~> constraint to set both a lower and upper bound on versions for each provider they depend on.

How to Upgrade Terraform Version

  • It is essential to set up a local environment with the Terraform version that needs to be upgraded. To facilitate working with different versions and switching between them, tools such as tfenv or the official Terraform docker image can be used. These tools aid in isolating the environment for every release.
  • Before moving to the next version, it is recommended to execute a final Terraform plan on the current version. Optionally, address any deprecation warnings that exist.
  • Perform a Terraform plan to identify what Terraform detects in the code that needs modification to meet the syntax requirements and rectify any warnings. If there are any breaking changes, certain resources might need to be recreated.
  • After addressing all warnings and obtaining a "clean" Terraform plan, proceed with a Terraform apply. Even if there are no resource modifications, performing this step updates the Terraform version in the remote tfstate.
  • It is crucial to upgrade Terraform even if the current configurations are functioning well. Delaying the upgrade can make it more challenging. To avoid getting stuck with a specific Terraform version, initiate timely upgrades.
  • While upgrading versions, skipping some minor versions is permissible, as long as the Terraform upgrade guides approve it.
  • Be cautious of the changes detected by the Terraform plan and aim to minimize them. Stay informed about any replacements or redeployment of resources.
  • Maintaining track of the tfstate is vital since it represents the infrastructure configuration. Ensure that the team members are aware of the upgrade and its implications. They won't be able to initialize their Terraform environment if they are using the previous version.

Upgrade Terraform version in Terraform Cloud

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When it comes to upgrading Terraform versions in Terraform Cloud, the process is straightforward, but it's essential to follow the necessary steps to ensure a smooth transition. To begin, you'll need to create a new workspace and configure it accordingly. Once that's done, you can move on to updating the workspace version and your Terraform configuration. 

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Updating the Terraform configuration involves modifying the version constraint to accommodate the new Terraform version you wish to upgrade to. You'll then need to create a new branch, stage your changes, commit them, and push your modifications to your forked repository. 

Testing New Terraform Version

After that, you can test the new Terraform version by creating a pull request, which will trigger a speculative plan to ensure compatibility. If all goes well, you can proceed to update your workspace's Terraform version to the desired one. 

Updating Terraform Version in Terraform Cloud

You'll need to perform an empty apply run to update your workspace's state file to reflect the new Terraform version. This step is crucial as Terraform 0.13 introduced changes to the state file format. Once that's done, you'll have successfully upgraded your Terraform version in Terraform Cloud. 

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Get Control of Your Releases With Zeet's CI/CD & Deployment Platform for Kubernetes and Terraform

Zeet is a tool that can help your team upgrade Terraform Version smoothly. This tool helps teams get more from their cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform investments. Using Zeet can help your engineering team become strong individual contributors. 

Streamlined Terraform Version Upgrades

Zeet provides a CI/CD and deployment platform that will help your team upgrade Terraform Version with ease. With Zeet, your team will be able to get seamless cloud deployments every time. If you're looking to upgrade Terraform Version successfully, using Zeet is a great option that can help your team become a top-performing engineering team. 

Effortless Terraform Version Upgrades

Contact Zeet today to learn more about how Zeet can help you upgrade Terraform Version without any hassle. With Zeet, your team will be able to upgrade Terraform Version in no time and be on your way to more effective cloud deployments.

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